Cross-Border Cleanup

Cross-Border Cleanup

7 June, 2016
Big Step Forward
Nearly two tonnes of marine litter collected on World Environment Day by over 400 volunteers
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This past Sunday, World Environment Day, Ecozine’s Hong Kong Cleanup was proud to support the Cross-Border Coastal Clean-up as part of WWF-Hong Kong’s Coastal Watch project.
 
Coastal Watch aims to help government bodies formulate long-term strategic management solutions to Hong Kong’s marine litter problem through collecting, analysing and tracing the sources of marine debris through a series of coastal clean-up actions and ecological surveys.

Timed to coincide with the World Environment Day, the Coastal Watch team organized the first ever cross-border clean-up activity, teaming up with passionate organizations from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China. The opening ceremony for this regional clean-up was held at Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun, one of Hong Kong’s worst marine litter black spots. Representatives from organizations based in Macau and mainland China, as well as the Hong Kong government’s Inter-departmental Working Group on Clean Shorelines, all participated in the ceremony and the clean-up that followed.
 
World Environmental Day encourages people around the world to pay attention to environmental issues and take proactive action to protect their local and regional environments. During the event, volunteers from the three regions simultaneously cleaned up their corresponding coastlines. In Hong Kong, 400 enthusiastic volunteers conducted clean-ups at 16 coastal sites, including Lung Kwu Tan, Chi Ma Wan, Shui Hau and Tai O. In Macau, several hundred volunteers cleaned up three local marine litter black spots. In mainland China, 15 cities also participated in this first cross-border project. Participants in all locations also used the collected marine litter to spell out the names of their clean-up sites as a powerful statement showing the extent of the marine litter problem, as well as their determination to combat it.
 
The cross-border clean-up collected 194 bags of marine litter, which totaled to 1.8 tonnes — equivalent to the weight of 13.5 fully-loaded 660kg garbage bins that are commonly used in Hong Kong. In Lung Kwu Tan, plastic items accounted for the highest proportion of all marine debris, with 791 plastic caps, 594 plastic plates and cups, 303 plastic straws and stirrers found. This clearly reflects a serious problem with the consumption and improper disposal of single-use plastic products in all three regions.
 
The accumulation of marine debris not only degrades coastal scenery, but also impacts both marine and human life. Joe Chan, president of the Macau Green Student Union, said that in the past, Hac Sa Beach in Macau was home to crabs and hermit crabs, and even Chinese white dolphins and jellyfish in surrounding waters. Nowadays, marine litter taken over shorelines with food packaging, bottles, and cans becoming more common than biodiversity. Along with technological advancement, the toxicity of marine litter is becoming increasingly deadly, which affects not only marine life but ourselves as well. “We see hope every time we organize these clean-up actions, and we wish that more people can become aware of our ocean,” he said.
 
Last year, the joint clean-up activity with 18 coastal cities and 31 NGO’s in mainland China cleaned up 30 tonnes of marine litter. This year, the scale of the clean-up was expanded to include green groups in Hong Kong and Macau as well. Ms Min Zhang, Chairwoman of the Financial Committee for the Shenzhen Mangrove Wetlands Conservation Foundation said, “We hope that the exchange of valuable experiences through this cross-border cooperation will influence more people to join efforts to protect the marine environment.”

Recent research from the Education University of Hong Kong has shown that the Pearl River has a significant influence on the quantity and distribution of marine litter in Hong Kong, demonstrating the need for regional collaboration to solve the marine litter problem. Patrick Yeung, WWF’s Coastal Watch project manager believes that this cannot simply be solved through clean-up activities. “We must research and pinpoint the root causes of the problem. We encourage everyone to reduce waste at source to prevent litter from entering the marine environment and destroying the marine ecosystem,” he commented.


With the success of this regional cleanup, hopefully governments will be encouraged to establish cross-border communication in order to formulate concrete measures and objectives to solve the problem.

By: Jamie Chan
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